The role of soil in controlling production and fluxes of biotic greenhouse gases is the focus of research in progress at the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC). There are two main goals in this project on World Inventory of Soil Emission Potentials (WISE). The first is to assemble a global soil database in association with the Land and Water Division of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), using a ½° × ½° grid of geographic soil data (1:5 M scale). This “area” data will be linked to a database of soil profile “attribute” data using a geographical information system. The foundations for this work have now been put in place and, providing the soil profile collection programme proceeds satisfactorily, it is anticipated that a preliminary database should begin to emerge by the end of 1993. When the soil database is complete, the second thrust will be to make an inventory of the world's poorly drained soils, providing the geographical framework for an improved estimate of methane production potentials. To do this, controlled long-term field experiments are required and modeling techniques must be developed and tested. ISRIC is cooperating with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines for these aspects of the work. An important corollary to the development of a global soil database is that many requests are being received for soil information relevant for studies of “global change.” At present, much of this information does not exist in an adequate format, so ISRIC is proceeding as rapidly as possible to implement the WISE digital database in a format which is compatible and user-friendly, for ultimate distribution in the public domain.
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